The AS/400s reputation is based more on the plethora of quality legacy applications that it runs than on the cutting-edge Internet applications that could run on it. Yet, the AS/400 is a great platform for Web applications. So why isnt the AS/400 faring so well in the Web server market? One big reason is Microsoft. Microsofts Internet technologies provide sound strategies for developing Web applications. But the cross-platform technologies that IBM endorses are also sound strategies. The big difference is that Microsoft provides an incredibly integrated set of development and deployment tools. Go cross-platform and you lose that integrated toolset. You need a Java integrated development environment (IDE), a source control package, a Web application server, and a visual HTML editor. In terms of training, cost, and compatibility, mixing and matching tools from different vendors can quickly become a problem.
AS/400 Integrated Solution
OS/400 hasnt provided a truly integrated toolset for Web application developmentuntil now. You already know that OS/400 bundles the HTTP Server for AS/400 and WebSphere Standard Edition. As of V4R5, IBM is bundling a complete Web application development environment. Those tools are as follows:
VisualAge for RPG (VARPG)
VisualAge for Java (VAJ)
The toolset will cost $300 per seata fraction of the cost of purchasing these tools separately. IBM plans to include these tools with OS/400s current Application Development Tool (ADT). (The bundled products will be the Application Development ToolSet/400 [ADTS].) These tools collectively support not only the latest in Web application development but also the redeployment of legacy applications. Allow me to introduce them to you.
CODE/400 has greatly improved. It provides a distributed editor and source-level debugger for all AS/400 languages from C and C++ to RPG, COBOL, and Java.
VisualAge for RPG
Im not impressed. Sure, VARPG generates Java byte code from your RPG IV-compatible VARPG source code, but I dont think the VARPG-code-generated Java byte code is something youd want to run your e-business application on anyway. Yes, you can use VARPG to generate Java source code, but that code is not maintainable. Im OK with Java byte code generation, but Im sure the idea of producing Java source from RPG was an IBM marketing decisionnot from the lab. (Visit IBMs VisualAge RPG and CODE/400 Web site at www-4.ibm.com/software/ad/varpg/download/index.html to download an evaluation version of VARGP. Also consider visiting ASNAs Web site at www.asna.com to download a trial version of Visual RPG.)
VisualAge for Java
The Professional Edition of VAJnot the Enterprise Editionis bundled with ADTS, but it does include the Enterprise Toolkit for the AS/400. There is no Enterprise JavaBean (EJB) support, but all your AS/400 wizards and debuggers are there, as well as support for JSPs and servlets. And thats exactly what you need.
VAJ provides the most complete support for JSPs and servlets. Couple that support with VAJs integration with WebSphere Studio, WebSphere Application Server, and the AS/400, and youll find that, today, VAJ is the best solution for Java development on the AS/400. VAJ is also the hardest IDE to use when you are first learning Java, so Java newbies should download Suns free Forte for Java.
I give a big thumbs-up for IBMs new WebFacing Tool. IBM Clarifies the Future of AS/400 Application Development, on page 89, provides more detail on the WebFacing Tool.
Its in There
Don Denoncourt is a senior technical editor for Midrange Computing. He can be reached via email at ddenoncourt@ midrangecomputing.com.